Preparing for Amazing Opportunities Abroad

Lindsey Osburnsen is a senior at Smith College double majoring in English and Portuguese. She has interned with the Merritt Group, a VA based public relations firm, and is currently serving as a Portuguese translator and research assistant. After graduation she plans to pursue a Masters in International Communication

By Lindsey Osburnsen


If you’re just starting college, thinking about your junior year is a daunting task. Even more daunting is considering how you want to spend the year after you graduate, but if you’re interested in studying or working internationally—and are nervous about where to start—there are steps you can take throughout your time in college help you prepare. Here are some tips for how best to situate yourself for a future academic or professional career abroad.


In your first year of college:

If you have an interest in travelling and exploring new cultures, try to take a foreign language. Your freshman year is the perfect time to try a new language or to develop your skills in a language you started in high school. If you really enjoy the class and want to continue learning you’ll have three more years to advance and could become fluent by graduation. Too many students want to explore a new language, but delay in registering for the right class only to find that they don’t have time later when they’re trying to satisfy degree requirements. Many study abroad programs require two years of collegiate study in a language, so beginning in your first year will ensure that you can apply with confidence.


As a sophomore:

If you’re considering studying abroad in your junior year now is the time to decide where you want to go and what you do. Research your school’s programs and talk to your foreign language professors about locations and academics. Beyond continuing your language study, you should begin to build relationships with your professors and advisors. Nearly every opportunity you pursue internationally—as well as domestically—will require references and/or recommendations, so it’s important that your professors get to know you now. Before completing your application consider how long you want to be away. Many students don’t want to spend their entire junior year away from their friends and their school, but then find that a semester is not enough time settle in and feel comfortable enough to really explore and enjoy their host country.


In your junior year:

If you’ve decided not to go abroad now, but are still interested in travelling internationally don’t worry, there will still be plenty of chances. Consider summer internships, classes and fellowships, and again talk to your professors. One of the most exciting and challenging opportunities to explore is a Fulbright fellowship for the year following graduation, which provides grants for teaching English abroad as well as individual research endeavors. Check out their website to discover participating countries and to learn more about the application process. There are many countries that don’t require applicants to possess a foreign language background, so you still can pursue work abroad if you haven’t gotten a chance to study languages in college.


As a senior:

If you’re planning to apply for a Fulbright for the year following graduation, your application should be underway and needs to be completed by the end of October. You can still apply for a Fulbright after graduation, so if you’re too late to apply now you should still consider it as a future option. Continue to look into internships and jobs abroad and look into graduate schools if you’re interested in pursuing advanced degrees. Now is a great time to discuss post-graduation opportunities with your advisors and network with the professors you’ve worked with throughout your college career. You might find that they are considering you for prospective jobs or projects they have encountered abroad.


There are a lot of chances to plan and prepare for a wide range of endeavors abroad. If you’re genuinely interested in travelling, you can put in an effort to make it happen at any point in your college career. Good luck!

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